David Cameron's ancestors had owned slaves: report

David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron is among some of the famous Britons distantly related to people involved in the slave trade, according to a new database.

A research conducted by University College London (UCL) documents all British slave-owners who were compensated after being forced to free slaves in 1833 when slavery was abolished in Britain's colonies.

Among some of the other prominent names who are linked with a slave-owning past include author George Orwell as well as novelist Graham Greene.

The British government paid around 20 million pounds to compensate thousands of slave-owning families for the loss of their "property" when human ownership was abolished by the British Empire.

The sum, which includes a total of 46,000 individual claims, amounted to 40 per cent of the UK's annual spending budget and it would add up to around 1.8 billion pounds in terms of 21st century prices.

"Our overall finding is that British colonial slave-ownership was of far greater significance in Britain than has previously been recognised," said Professor Catherine Hall, who led the UCL research project.

"What we have done is to establish the life-trajectories of some 3,000 absentee slave-owners in Britain, and analysis of this has allowed us to trace the legacies of slave-ownership in Victorian Britain," she said.

The database www.ucl.ac.uk/search is open to the public and allows anyone to find out details of the families involved in slavery in the Caribbean, Mauritius, and the Cape Colony, part of modern-day South Africa.

According to ship records, it is estimated around 12.5 million people were transported as slaves from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean from the 16th century until the trade was banned in 1807.

"The most surprising thing is how embedded the whole slavery business is in British society.

One of the things we found is that far from the slave owners all being concentrated in the great slaving ports of London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Bristol, there are people all over the country making claims of compensation," Prof Hall said.

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